Golf brings out the best and the worst in humanity

The sport's stiff code of conduct can lead to pettiness and bigotry

Related Topics

"I would ask members to remind themselves of the proper ethical and legal traditions that underlie the culture of our club and the legal system of our country." Among those who occupy high office in Britain, only the captain of a golf club could have written something as pompous, overbearing and specious as this.

One of the great things about golf is its rules and regulations, and the requirement on its competitors to follow a strict code. But one of the worst things is the way these strictures breed an officious attitude in those who consider themselves responsible for the application of standards.

And so it was that the captain of Wimbledon Park Golf Club stepped into a dispute between club members with rhetoric that wouldn't have gone amiss had it come from Lord Justice Leveson. Ostensibly, the row concerns one of the club's best players, accused by fellow members of serial cheating, and other transgressions.

An anonymous email was circulated, demanding his removal from the club: the provenance of the email was discovered and the writer has been asked to leave, rather than the alleged cheat.

But this story, reported with prurient relish yesterday, is about much more than small-time politics in a suburban golf club. It is a quintessentially English morality tale involving etiquette, snobbery, sharp practice, and an errant dog.

The accused member's dog is alleged to have gone over to a neighbouring green and run off with the ball of a lady golfer. In some clubs, where the 20th century has not yet been recognised and where sexism is built into the fabric, this might be regarded as a heroic act, but it was frowned upon in SW19, especially as the dog's owner failed to treat the incident with sufficient gravity.

But it is for offences perpetrated with his own hand that the golfer, who has won a number of club competitions, stands accused. Such as putting an opponent's ball in his pocket while pretending to search for it, or kicking his own ball out of the rough.

The email also complains about his “loud swearing ... in the men's changing room”. I detect the aroma of snobbery here. He plays off a very low handicap, wins the prizes, has a dog with misogynistic tendencies, and uses bad language? He simply isn't “one of us”.

All right, there's the cheating, but, in the end, he's only cheating himself, and the god of golf. And if there's one place where a man could swear loudly without giving offence, it is surely in the men's changing room. In fact, in my club, I believe it may be compulsory.

I found this story depressing. Golf is one of the great sports of the world, the perfect test of physical ability and mental application, and a game where honesty and manners are prized. Golf clubs, however, germinate less worthy aspects of human nature: pettiness, jealousy, bigotry, high-handedness. And, worst of all, anonymous emails.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas